The latest forecast for California's fire season shows the danger rising after a relatively quiet start.
The total number of acres that have burned this year in California, both on Cal Fire and National Forest Service lands, is about 45,000.
“Last year, same time, over 650,000 acres burned,” Deputy Chief Scott McClean said.
And that's just Cal Fire land. Add in the Forest Service, and it jumps another 100,000.
“The severity of the fires we've seen in the last two years just signifies as to what we've had to deal with as far as so many people involved, so much acreage burned — so fast as well,” McClean said
Last year’s deadly, wind-driven Camp Fire, for example, saw flames move at an estimated rate of 80 football fields per minute.
With those speeds came record numbers of fatalities: 100 last year, 46 the year before.
So far in 2019, nobody has died.
Much of the current situation can be credited to our wet winter and pretty average summer, McClean said.
But he cautions that drier conditions are just around the corner, and with them, more risk.
“The snowpack that we got earlier this year is definitely starting to decline, so we're going to start seeing those upper elevations start to dry out,” he said. “So, the potential for significant fires is still there."
McClean says moving forward, prevention will be an important part of keeping the numbers down.
“It only takes one spark to start a fire. Look at the Car Fire, with the fire tornado up in Redding, west of Redding,” he said.
That deadly incident began with a chain dragging on a highway.
McLean said it's looking like this year is a bit of a return to the previous normal, with September and October being the main fire months.
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